Of Gratitude: A Blessing, James Wright
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
James Wright is awesome. . . and here's why:
|From The Academy of American Poets|
James Wright was born in 1927 in the steel-mill river town of Martins Ferry, Ohio. He graduated from Kenyon College in 1952 with honors and later received a Fulbright Fellowship, which took him to Vienna. He began his graduate studies at the University of Washington in 1954. His classmates there included Theodore Roethke and Stanley Kunitz. That same year W. H. Auden selected Wright’s manuscript for publication in the Yale Younger Poets Series. In 1957, Wright signed on as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota. His colleagues included Allen Tate and John Berryman. Wright also earned a PhD in Washington in 1959.
Wright developed a working friendship with Robert Bly, with whom he shared similar views about the powers of the universe. The two worked together on experimenting with the use of poetic language – both artistically and technically – working on many poetic translations, including works by many Latin American poets such as Pablo Neruda. In 1966, James Wright began teaching at Hunter College, and by this time he had received not only a Rockefeller Foundation grant but also the coveted Pulitzer Prize for his “Collected Poems”
Wrights works were not only current - rich with the political and social issues from that historically wrought time– but they were often strikingly personal. Venerable and devastatingly beautiful in their simplistic displays of sweeping emotion, Wright’s works somehow included readers into this personal realm. The stories in his poems just weren’t his, but somehow spoke to the larger experience of being while at the same time, isolating the reader is such a personal and honest experience it was like Wright was often specifically to or about them.
So it was only natural that Wright was also included in that special school of poets of his time including Sylvia Plath, who were making a distinct and deliberate movement away from the rigid and formal method of poetry in order to explore a more free form of writing, making it possible to delve into more the more “confessional” style that came to define much of post-modern poetry and other forms writing.
Wright once spoke about this intensely his poetry saying of one of his works, "I was trying to write about a girl I was in love with who has been dead for a long time, I tried to sing with her in that book. Not to re-create her; you can’t re-create anybody, at least I can’t. But I thought maybe I could come to terms with that feeling which has hung on in my heart for so long. The book has been damned because it is so carefully dreamed."
Of this girl, history knows little, but In 1953, Wright married Liberty Kardules, also of Martins Ferry. They had two sons, but their marriage became troubled and the couple separated and subsequently divorced. He later married Edith Anne Crunk, who became the "Annie" in several of his later poems. She was by his side in 1979, when after suffering from chronic issues with a sore throat; Wright was diagnosed with Tongue Cancer. He died on March 25, 1980, having just completed his final manuscript - The Journey, a collection of Prose Poetry which conveyed that same, striking and personal dialogue for which he will always be remembered.
Works from James Wright:
- Saint Judas, 1959.
- The Lion's Tail and Eyes: Poems Written Out of Laziness and Silence, 1962.
- The Branch Will Not Break, 1963.
- Shall We Gather at the River, 1968.
- Collected Poems, 1971.
- Two Citizens, 1973.
- I See the Wind, 1974.
- Old Booksellers and Other Poems, 1976.
- Moments of the Italian Summer, 1976.
- To a Blossoming Pear Tree, Farrar, 1978.
- This Journey, 1982.
- The Temple in Nimes, 1982.
- Above the River: The Complete Poems, 1992.
- Salt Mines and Such, 1971,
- The Shape of Light: Prose Poems
- Anthology Inclusions: Poems on Poetry, An Introduction to Poetry, Heartland, and Poems of Our Moment
- Translations: Twenty Poems of Cesar Vallejo, The Rider on the White Horse, Twenty Poems of Pablo Neruda, Sixties Press, 1968. Hermann Hesse, Poems, Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems, and Hesse, Wandering: Notes and Sketches,
- Other Works: The Poetry and Voice of James Wright (recording), (Editor) Winter's Tales Twenty-Two, Collected Prose, A Secret Field, Town of Moravia, The Summers of James and Annie Wright, With the Delicacy and Strength of Lace: Letters between Leslie Marmon Silko and Wright, Today's Poets Three, for Folkways. Contributor to Hudson Review, Kenyon Review, Sewanee Review, Western Review, Yale Review, Harper's, Poetry, Frescoe, New Poets of England and America, Paris Review, London Magazine, Botteghe Obscure, New Yorker, Minnesota Review, Big Table, Audience, Nation, and other publications.
National Poetry Month #1